Midnights isn’t just an album, it’s an out of body experience that Taylor Swift was kind enough to grace us with just two weeks ago. As if it wasn’t already overwhelming enough, she has since released an extended edition dubbed Midnights (3am Edition) which features some of the greatest songs from her widespread career. This isn’t a simple, deluxe edition that so many artists release with tracks that merely fizzle and only serve to help streaming numbers. This is art of the highest caliber, with each track fully capable of earning their place on the main 13 track standard edition.
“The Great War” is the first of several songs produced by Aaron Dessner on this deluxe edition, and his presence carries a great deal of sonic weight to these tracks. Detailing a difficult turmoil in a relationship, the production is so gorgeously reminiscent of Swift’s previous album Evermore and is drenched in metaphorical bliss. The production choices from the military drum like breakdown to the reverbed background vocals on each pre-chorus are simply perfection. The way Taylor crafts the storyline throughout each subsequent chorus turns the message into a more hopeful one with the final chorus echoing that “I vowed I would always be yours ’cause we survived The Great War.”
“Bigger Than The Whole Sky” is one of the most hauntingly gorgeous songs in Taylor’s vast catalogue. A song about a great loss of someone important to you that you wish you could’ve had more time with- the track’s lyrics are resonating with every listener in their own unique way. Everyone seems to have their own interpretation of the meaning- with some relating it to the loss of a child and others even relating it to the end of a relationship. That’s the beauty in the way that Taylor writes, crafting a song that is clearly painful for her own experience and making it vague enough for the world to make their own. In a track filled with gorgeous lyrics, the one that I find myself constantly going back to hits you right in the beginning: “no words appear before me in the aftermath, salt streams out my eyes and into my ears“.
Now I’m not going to lie, out of all 20 tracks- there has to be a least favorite and I am sorry to say that “Paris” has earned that title. I actually don’t dislike it at all, but I find it to be the least interesting one both sonically and lyrically. If you listen closely, you can hear the angry mobs approaching my house upon publishing this review. That being said, this song feels like falling in love and captures that wonderfully through its production. It feels like it would fit in perfectly on Lover– transcendent in its ability to transport you to that feeling of being in love within the City of Lights. Lines like “let the only flashing lights be the tower at midnight,” bring a great deal of depth to the track in her wish to keep this love private and away from the barrage of paparazzi and tabloid rumors that have always plagued her life. It’s a tragic image- and yet it brings with it the sigh of relief that Taylor feels now that she has found a love that gives her that peace.
“High Infidelity” is an absolute standout track, continuing Taylor’s in depth look at the nuances of cheating and infidelity that she has touched upon in songs like “August” and “Ivy” quite poignantly. Detailing the feeling of meeting someone who brings a sense of light and freedom back into your life that your current partner has somehow sucked out of you- the song is heartbreakingly gorgeous. The melody has to be one of Taylor’s finest in recent memory- instantly memorable and reminiscent of her and Dessner’s work on Folklore and Evermore. Some of these lyrics are absolutely illegal in their ability to hurt my soul, like “You know there’s many different ways that you can kill the one you love, The slowest way is never loving them enough. Do you really wanna know where I was April 29th? Do I really have to tell you how he brought me back to life?” Taylor doesn’t pull any punches here- crafting a song that is somehow so full of emotion and yet depicts a relationship that has since turned cold. It’s simply gorgeous.
Perhaps the most unique and unlike anything that has come prior to this point in her career is “Glitch” which finds Taylor in what she refers to as a “glitch”- a relationship that never should’ve become anything more than a friendship. Sonically, it has remnants of the dark pop found on Lorde’s Melodrama and pieces of Beyoncé’s R&B delivery that all add up to make a rather weird and wonderful song. “I was supposed to sweat you out,” she sings on the second verse, comparing the beginnings of their relationship to the intensity of sweating out a fever. Frankly, the way she jumps the octave and goes into that second chorus is pure heaven and absolutely makes the song for me. It’s fun, it’s experimental and it will likely go down as one of the most underrated songs on this record.
“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is one of the finest songs on this record- perhaps of the entire year. It’s a chilling story about the toll of an adult man taking a young girl’s innocence away from her. I can’t get through this song without having chills all over my body and that perhaps all comes down to the fact that this is a memory that continues to keep Taylor up at night after all of these years. Through every experience she has faced since this encounter at 19-years-old, she has gotten perspective on the situation and now regrets it- using religious overtones to describe her youth and the ways in which that was taken from her. The entire song is perfect, but it really doesn’t get much better than the song’s bridge and outro- with Swift singing “God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be, The tomb won’t close, Stained glass windows in my mind, I regret you all the time. I can’t let this go, I fight with you in my sleep, The wound won’t close, I keep on waiting for a sign, I regret you all the time“.
The album closer, “Dear Reader” finds Taylor attempting to give the listeners (or readers) advice and then telling us all to take it with a grain of salt- as she herself is falling apart. It reads like a diary entry and feels like this is the closest look we get at her current mindset on the entire record. Bringing back the synth found on the standard edition and the vocal effects used on songs like “Midnight Rain”, this track is a perfect choice to close out this record. “So I wander through these nights, I prefer hiding in plain sight, My fourth drink in my hand, These desperate prayers of a cursed man, Spilling out to you for free, But darling, darling, please, You wouldn’t take my word for it if you knew who was talking, If you knew where I was walking, To a house, not a home, all alone cause nobody’s there, Where I pace in my pen and my friends found friends who care, No one sees when you lose when you’re playing solitaire,” she warns us that we wouldn’t look up to her if we knew what her life was really like. In the end, she closes the album by repeating the lines “You should find another guiding light, but I shine so bright”– telling us that we should all look to someone else but recognizing that no matter what she says, she won’t be able to escape the attention.
Taylor Swift has truly delivered again- crafting another seven standout tracks that give another, nuanced look at the painful (and sometimes beautiful) thoughts that keep her up at night. She isn’t alone in that feeling, it’s universal. It’s what connects everyone in the world, and yet it’s also what can make us all feel so alone. Thankfully, we have Midnights to keep us company on all of these nights going forward.
Midnights (3am Edition) is out on all streaming services now!